You can’t imagine breaking up with coffee or black tea or fountain sodas. Your drink of choice is the perfect midday pick-me-up when you’re slogging along with that report due by 5 PM, running carpool or just trying not to fall asleep before the evening news. Caffeine’s purpose is to stimulate the central nervous system: It increases alertness while keeping you awake. We know you love it, yet dependency on this psychoactive ingredient really isn’t good for your health.

If you’re consuming large amounts of caffeine—four or more cups a day—or struggling with insomnia, irritability, headaches, nervousness, upset stomach or small tremors, the Mayo Clinic suggests it may be time to break up with the cause of these issues. Many choose to give up caffeine to reboot their system and step away from dependence on artificial stimulants. 

How to kick the caffeine habit

There are two methods for cutting out caffeine: cold-turkey or the slow fade. Immediately stopping your intake of caffeine, especially if your daily consumption is on the grande side, is the fastest way to detox. However, it can also be a huge shock to your system. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, including irritability, migraines, depression, insomnia and an inability to focus, just to name a few. Weaning off caffeine, or slowly fading it from your diet, takes longer. However, this method is less of a shock to the system and may keep you from experiencing severe, if any, symptoms of withdrawal. 

So, how do you kick the caffeine habit without becoming a sleepy basket case? Below are four tips for dropping your dependence without biting off the heads of friends and family.

Time it wisely

Rather than interrupt your weekly routine, consider beginning caffeine cessation either on the weekend or at the beginning of vacation. Plan activities that don’t require expending large amounts of energy. Movie marathons and finishing the books on your nightstand are great ways to pass the time. Knowing you’re not required to be at peak performance can help your quit-caffeine mindset. 

A good substitute

It’s painful to think of not having a soda with pizza. Or tacos. Anything, really, when you love soft drinks. Choose a substitute such as caffeine-free soda that can stand in so you won’t feel deprived. If you’re also kicking sugar and additives to the curb, try club soda with a squeeze of lime. 

Time for tea

There are a plethora of caffeine-free teas on the market. The health benefits from drinking them mean they’re also good for you. Teas contain antioxidants, important nutrients that help the body heal, repair and maintain health. Green and herbal blends are caffeine-free naturally. Drinking tea can assist in losing weight, preventing bone loss and can also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Remember your why

Keep a motivational list of why you’re saying goodbye to caffeine. For health reasons? To save money? To kick a habit that’s unhealthy and addictive? Changing behavior isn’t easy. The more often you remind yourself of the bigger picture—why it’s important to you—the more successful you’ll be. 

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